Caroline Ticknor pointed out something key to May Alcott Nieriker’s success in life, both as a person and an artist – “It was characteristic of the aspiring artist form Concord to make the most of her opportunities and much of May’s so-called ‘good luck’ was traceable to the alacrity with which she seized upon each chance that came her way, and did her best to guide the ‘moving finger’ which was tracing her line of fate.” (pg. 180, May Alcott A Memoir)
Then Ticknor relayed a charming incident (written by May) that was typical of May’s ‘seizing the moment’ mentality:
“When we got to the studio, we found that is was M. Müller’s day for visiting and criticizing. Then I regretted I hadn’t known of it and brought my still-life for his opinion, but remembering how a few moments it would take to run back and get, it, I instantly resolved to do so and let his decision settle my doubts as to its real merit.
When I got back he was talking with M. Krug in his studio, apart from ours, and I timidly produced my little group of simple objects coming naturally together as they did on our dining-room table. What was my astonishment and perfect delight when he overwhelmed me with praises, saying it was worthy of a pupil of the great still-life painter here (whose name I can’t spell), and said he couldn’t have done it better himself, and that I must send it to the Salon, and he should be proud to have me write myself as his élève, or pupil. Krug stood beaming upon me and was pleased at the master’s praise, saying, I must at least try and get it exhibited. Müller said: ‘Take that into the other studio and show these ladies what, painting simply what you see instead of trying to make a picture, will do even without great practice in color.’ Then he looked and looked again, and repeated over and over again, ‘Très bien, très bien, Mlle. Alcott, you cannot do better than go on doing just such things.’ ” (bold is my emphasis, pg. 181)
I used to take art classes in high school but didn’t have a real talent for art, just a flair. But I have a hint of an artist’s eye, sometimes looking at scenes and envisioning what a great painting or photograph it would make if I had the talent. I see now from that description how May’s appreciation for beauty was the key element in her artistic talent. She knew intuitively what to do in order to create a moment.
It seemed to give her a greater confidence and when you have that kind of confidence in your ability, good luck does tend to follow you.
I can hardly wait to read May’s letters about her paintings actually being displayed at the Salon! Her letters draw me into her consciousness.
p.s. I wish there were photos of some of her paintings on the internet but I’ve yet to find any. If anyone can find one online, please comment here so we can see. Thanks!